In countries around the world, millions of the poorest families live in dumps literally. The images are disturbing: children spending hours in the relentless heat, rummaging through a mountain of garbage, scavenging for whatever recycled goods they can sell.
For Vancouver luxury real estate marketers Peter Dupuis and Sid Landolt, those images became a reality when they witnessed first-hand the abject squalor of these landfill shanty communities.
"In 2009, I was doing my Masters thesis. While on a flight between Los Angeles to Vancouver, Sid and I met Blake Mycoskie, the hip young founder of TOMS shoes" says Dupuis. "He told us how for every pair of TOMS shoes they sell; his company provides a new pair of shoes to a child in need."
Inspired, the longtime partners discussed the possibility of one-for-one gifting of homes.
For the next three years, Dupuis traveled the globe visiting slum housing and learning all he could about social entrepreneurship, philanthropy and the plight of those living in some of the world's worst garbage-dump communities.
The entrepreneurs decided to provide homes in: Steung Meanchey Landfill in Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Xtapa Landfill in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and Smokey Mountain Landfill in Manila, Philippines.
To test their model, last November two families living in the Steung Meanchey Landfill were given homes.
"We saw how it gave these families dignity and a sense of hope for the future," says Dupuis.
In January 2013 World Housing was born.
"We have partnered with NGOs that specialize in providing educational, medical and nutritional support we are the last piece of the puzzle," says Dupuis, adding that one of its NGOs is Cambodian Children's Fund, founded in 2003 by former film executive Scott Neeson.
How the World Housing model works
For each condominium sold at a certified luxury condo development around the world, World Housing will gift a deserving family a home in one of its three garbage dump communities. Potential developer partners must meet strict criteria, be committed to social change and pay a $25,000 fee to join. In addition, they commit to a minimum of 100 condominium units, or 50 per cent of the total project, to its gifting model.
"Then, for each condo sold, the developer pays World Housing a set fee of $3,000 of which $2,500 goes towards building the home and $500 to keep the organization running," says Dupuis. Everyone in the organization is a volunteer, no salaries are paid.
"On March 18," he says, "we will be announcing our first certified project on Vancouver's waterfront with a leading Canadian developer, which will fund more than 400 homes in Cambodia."
Right now, World Housing has signed up with two developers, one in Toronto and another in Taipei.
Built on stilts, each home is metal clad and features 130 square feet of interior living space with another 130 of covered exterior space as well. In order to help further, World Housing trains and hires local labourers who live in these communities.
To date, 53 homes have been gifted, 16 are in assembly at one of its two factories, with the goal to build 40 homes per month.
"By 2020, we hope to put roofs over the heads of 30,000 deserving people," says Landolt.
Although, the venture is a charitable one, it is not a non-profit organization.
"We are a for-benefit social change enterprise that generates revenue by connecting the buyers of developers' projects to families in developing countries," says Landolt.
For more information about World Housing, visit www.worldhousing.ca.
Sobering Statistics: (Courtesy of World Housing)
- 3 billion people live on less than $2 per day.
- 43 per cent of the world's population lives at the bottom of the economic pyramid.
- 1.1 billion people live in slums and shacks that are considered uninhabitable by UN-HABITAT.
- An estimated 120 to 150 million sustain themselves by scavenging garbage in urban dumps.
- In the Dharavi landfill community in Mumbai, India the average shack is 44 square feet and an average of six people live in it. Using this calculation, 170 people would share a two-bedroom, 1,250 square foot condominium.